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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

Microsoft and BPM: A New Beginning? (Part the Last, for Now)

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As covered here previously, Microsoft has forged a new association of partners focused on business process management. The company has also unveiled at least some of a road map for support of the increasingly popular Business Process Execution Language (BPEL).

Separately, Microsoft has begun distributing to partners an early version of a forthcoming new release of its CRM software. Code-named "Titan," this forthcoming release will, according to published reports, include three options for users. They can buy the software and host it internally, as they always have. They can purchase Microsoft CRM as a service hosted by Microsoft partners. Or they can purchase Microsoft CRM as a service hosted by Microsoft itself. (The company has been building data centers aggressively in advance of the roll-out of this option.)

Now, as is discussed almost constantly across the blogosphere and elsewhere, Microsoft has a challenge to overcome that does not burden perceived software-as-a-service (SaaS) competitors such as Salesforce.com. Microsoft has a hefty ecosystem of partners who have made pretty good livings supporting and working with Microsoft's traditional hosted software. When those partners have to compete with partners who offer CRM SaaS, including Microsoft itself, not all of them are expected to thrive, or even survive.

Further, Microsoft is working with BPM/CRM/ERP applications giant SAP AG, on something called "Duet." Duet is software the two companies jointly developed and sell, intended to integrate Microsoft Office front-end applications with SAP back-end solutions. But as Microsoft's Dynamics CRM and ERP solutions increasingly gain SaaS features, Microsoft will be increasingly challenged to help customers and partners to understand exactly what Microsoft offerings they should be obtaining, and from whom.

(If you don't think this is a serious problem for Microsoft, you haven't been following the confusion the company has created with its Live and Office Live offerings. Basically, few people inside or outside Microsoft seem able to understand or clearly articulate the company's overall vision for online services, including SaaS options. It's not clear at all that clarifying the boundaries separating partner-hosted, Microsoft-hosted, and user-hosted Microsoft solutions for BPM, CRM, and ERP is going to go any more smoothly.)

What to do? Well, if your company uses or is considering Microsoft Dynamics solutions, you should be meeting with your primary Microsoft partners now. You should be grilling them extensively about their awareness of what Microsoft is doing, and plans to evolve in response. If your company uses SAP solutions, you might want to keep an eye on Duet, and on competing offerings and services from Microsoft and its partners. (If you're a Salesforce.com user or partner, you probably have little to worry about, at lest for the next 12 to 18 months, which is probably how long it will take for Microsoft and its partners to work out revised business models and strategies.)

Meanwhile, I'd be passionately interested in your opinions about Microsoft's potential as a supplier of market-leading BPM, CRM, and/or ERP solutions, directly and/or through its partners. So please do share, while I continue to mull all of this over. If I come up with anything else worth sharing, I will of course let you know...

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Microsoft has a huge advantage over most BPM players, because of the technology convergance, Microsoft already got a hold on the most importatnt factors in the BPM storm "People" and "Office". Microsoft "CRM" ,"Exchange", "SQL", and Windows Storage in my opinion is all the BPM a small business needs.

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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